Some people follow their joy but I went a little further and married mine. No, really. I married my wife Joy a couple of months ago on a beautiful spring afternoon in Washington, DC.
It was my first marriage, at the tender age of 57. Some trips down the aisle are longer than others.
I’ve known that I was gay since I was about seven. Long before Lady Gaga created an anthem about it, I just knew that I was born this way. I’ve been lucky to not have experienced much angst about it – self-imposed or otherwise.
So I didn’t grow up dreaming about my wedding day. It was just another thing that wasn’t in the cards for me – like having a baby or wearing a bikini. Being an adoring aunt and wearing a sensible one piece was always just fine with me.
I had a couple of secret girlfriends in high school and then went to college and met the woman I would be with for 27 years – most of them really good ones. We went to lots of weddings together and would lament about all of the gifts we would never recoup. When you were a gay couple back then, you had to buy your own cutting boards and salad bowls.
When my relationship dissolved almost a decade ago, I struggled with what language to use – break up sounded too casual for such a substantial commitment of years and love but divorce didn’t sound right either. Mostly I used the word failure because that’s what I felt like.
My parents were married for 52 years and my brother and his wife have been married for 33. We’re a bit like swans in my family – we mate for life. I broke my “marriage” and it took me a very long time and a lot of therapy to understand why – but that’s all fodder for another post.
When I started dating Joy a couple of years ago, after having known her for about 16 years, I knew it was serious – like getting married serious. A wonderful situation to find myself in, except that I live in North Carolina, a state that in 2012 went so far as to pass a constitutional amendment making same sex marriage illegal.
Funny thing about love, at the end of the day, it can’t really be legislated and I sold my house and moved in with Joy last spring. The Supreme Court seemed to endorse this move by striking down DOMA a couple of months later. Then a bunch of bean counters, the IRS of all folks, went rogue and said gay marriage is real marriage, and wedding planners, florists, and bakers in states where gay marriage is legal rejoiced in an extended Chicken Dance.
The same sex wedding tsunami had begun.
I proposed to Joy shortly before Thanksgiving and she proposed back and we gave each other fabulous John Hardy necklaces. That’s kind of the cool thing about a same sex marriage – you can make up most of the rules as you go along. Besides, it never made sense to me that only person gets the jewels in a hetero proposal.
Six months later we were married in Washington, DC on May 5th, the second anniversary of our first date. It was a small but elegant ceremony at the home of dear friends and we stood in front of a mantle dwarfed by fresh cut cherry blossom branches.
And we said out loud to each other those words that I had only heard others say for so many years – words like honor and cherish and forever. And although we didn’t do a lot of the traditional things like smash cake in each other’s faces, we did what most couples do on their wedding day – we cried a little and smiled our faces off.
And yes, I did wear white. Turns out I’m a swan after all.